Life has been very good to me over the years. Looking out across the deeply tarnished vista of this modern world where there is so much pain and suffering I can see how fortunate I have been. I personally have led a charmed existence to date with only minor bumps along life’s highway. As the sunlit uplands of youth receded behind me and I wandered the trail into the darkening cloven valley of late middle age I found peace and comfort in my life here in the west. Helen, family, the various pets, friends, work colleagues and passing acquaintances all contributed to a full and comfortable life. Fishing has been a constant thread, taking me to wonderful places amid the glories of the Irish countryside. My angling efforts have waxed and waned over the past two decades and much as I would like to fish even more than I currently do it looks like the ash spoked wheels of life are turning in the opposite direction, for a little while at least.
A lot is going on outside of my angling, so much in fact that the end of the game fishing season has coincided with a period of frenetic activity which means there will be little or no fishing of any sort for me for a while. Many of my angling plans have had to be altered, postponed or abandoned, including the 32 project. It happens to us all, the best laid plans of mice and men etc. Unless you live in a self-contained bubble there are always going to be other demands on time and resources which mean angling has to take a back seat for a while. As 2021 grows old I am entering one of those periods when other priorities have come to the fore.
I have not given up on ‘32’, far from it. A hell of a lot of research has gone into developing detailed plans on how to complete my pet project. A spreadsheet resides on my desktop labelled ’32’, its pages filled with lists of possible venues, distances to be traveled, species thought to be swimming there, addresses of tackle shops and a myriad of other details to assist me in my decision making. Hours of research and planning have gone into this document and the contents remain valid for future use. It has just been put on hold for now, that’s all. Of course this is a disappointment after all the effort which I have already invested in the project. With 17 counties already under my belt ticking off the remainder felt eminently doable. Looking back, perhaps I should have put more effort into the project over the summer of 2021 but hindsight is an exact science and I believe while it is important to learn from the past it does not do to dwell on ones previous errors. Anyway, there were reasons why I did not go zooming off to Cork, Waterford or the others at the drop of a hat this year. Even I had some restrictions on me.
Two main reasons have led to this change of direction. I have taken up a new, full time job which will demand a lot of my time. My previous incarnation as an Interim Manager meant long spells of unemployment between assignments, periods when I could do a lot of fishing. Now I have traded in that peripatetic lifestyle and will be labouring in a 9-5 job like most other people, something I have not done since I lived in London nearly twenty years ago. This seismic shift in employment will obviously drastically reduce the amount of free time available to me and will take some getting used to. The new job is some 35km from home and that daily commute just adds to the reduction in free time. On the plus side, said commute will be through glorious countryside along relatively quiet roads. When in London I used to set off at 6.15 am every work day and considered myself very lucky to reach work at 8 am having covered 17 miles. I’ll never complain about a commute again after that!
At the same time there is a house move afoot and all the hassle that a change of abode entails, both financially and in time commitment. We are hoping to stay in Castlebar but that may not be possible and we might have to move away to somewhere else in Mayo. It all depends on what housing is available at the time. I may manage to squeeze in a couple of hours fishing here and there but long, all day trips to the far flung corners of the island of Ireland simply aren’t feasible when under so much pressure at home. All of my fly tying gear has already been packed up, ready for the house move. As we are downsizing the luxury of having a whole room to myself for fishing equipment and making flies is no longer realistic. Instead, I am planning on moving all my gear into a large shed once we find a new home. Even that will take time and money as I will need heat and light, power outlets and ventilation in the shed. Something tells me that Helen is unlikely to view the fishing shed as top priority when there is a whole house to be decorated. For those of you who enjoy my posts on fly patterns I have a few ‘in the bag’ already and I’ll add them to the blog over the coming months.
The housing market here in Ireland is volatile with rapidly rising prices and a shortage of property for sale for long periods only for the bubble to burst and house prices crash. At present they are rising. The hope is the next house will require only a little work done on it but if a reasonable ‘fixer-upper’ comes along I might be tempted. Long ago, when I lived in Scotland, I bought old houses and did them up, doing much of the work myself. The difference is that I was in my twenties back then and remodeling a house was a breeze. As an old codger I now approach hard physical work with a much more jaundiced eye. I find nowadays that I still know what to do but every job takes me so much longer to complete. While not dismissing the option of buying a dilapidated property it would need to be priced low enough that I could afford to hire tradesmen to do the heavy jobs. I am not going to knacker my casting arm laying blocks or pouring concrete!
Packing has already begun. Just the simple task of boxing up all my fly tying tools and materials turned into an all-day event. Unmarked packets of fur and feather abounded so simply chucking everything in boxes felt like I was just storing up trouble for myself in the future. Hours sorting out the various materials ensued, labelling them all and grouping them together in some sort of order. Over the years I have experimented with different hook designs and as a result now have 4 large boxes full to overflowing with assorted hooks. Even still, more packets and boxes of hooks appeared as I delved into the mass of gear. Of course during this tidy up I discovered lots of other stuff I had simply forgotten I owned. Capes and feathers of all types, reels upon reels of silks and threads and packets of various synthetics from years ago. Some will be used but other items, like boxes of huge Waddington shanks, are no longer required. The upshot of all this is I have a lot of excess materials which I intend selling off when finally ensconced in the new abode. It is impossible for me to use even a fraction of the materials I own in my remaining few years on this planet so I’ll move some of it on and free up some space.
My tackle was already in pretty good order (nudge nudge wink wink). I store most of my gear neatly in large plastic boxes, each more or less dedicated to specific methods. For example, there are separate containers for salmon fly tackle, trout fly gear, coarse stuff, etc. Odds and ends have to be rounded up from the back of the car and other nooks and crannies, along with a library of angling books which have somehow crept on to book shelves all over the house. I am taking this time to throw out old fishing clothing which I never wear but have been clinging on to for years. Shirts with worn collars, jackets that don’t zip up any more and pairs of leaky waders which I meant to repair but never got around to. They are being consigned to the recycling bin as the burning desire to minimise takes hold in earnest. All this ditching of old gear was quite cathartic and I’d encourage you all to do the same thing. Hanging on to stuff you will never use again is not healthy. As part of this clear out I also reached the decision I will sell my heavy salmon outfit. This rod and reels have enormous sentimental value but I have to be realistic, I’ll never use them again. My days of deep wading the Tweed and Tay, spey casting heavy sinking lines are long behind me now and so the Hardy sixteen footer, the 3 3/4 inch Perfect and the Angel 9/10 reel are all going on the market. I don’t expect much interest in the rod but the reels should sell pretty quickly.
It has not all been about chucking stuff out though. While clearing one spare room I came upon a couple of cheap old guitars which had been long forgotten about. The acoustic has a damaged nut and the electric refused to work at all. Before binning both I took a look at them and worked out that with a bit of work they could be salvaged. Damage to the nut on the acoustic was limited to the high string so I changed it to a 5 string and tuned to open G. It’s a little awkward now but playable. The electric had some broken connections and was soon fixed after some work with the soldering iron. I will order a bridge conversion gizmo for it to raise the action and use it to play slide. I am half toying with the idea of reducing it to three strings like Seasick Steve’s Transwonder. Of course repairing old guitars when I was supposed to be packing did not go down well with ‘er indoors!
So what are my plans on re-booting the 32 project? It is hard to be exact when the whole world feels like it is spinning out of control. If pushed, I think I would say it will be the end of summer 2022 before I can seriously start to tackle any more counties. OK, a small window of opportunity may open up unexpectedly before then but in terms of a concerted effort we are probably looking at the second half of next year. That feels an awfully long way away right now but as life flies past us so quickly I guess even the second half of 2022 will come around fast enough. Helen has already suggested a short break for us both once the move has been completed, maybe down to Cork for a weekend. A sneaky fishing rod could easily be surreptitiously stowed in the car on that holiday.
Any spare moments over the upcoming weeks and months will be spent carrying out small little angling related jobs. For example, I have a lot of floats to repair (what is the collective name for floats? A flitter? A fantasy? A frivolity? Answers on a postcard….). The contents of all my coarse fishing rig wallets which were so abused this summer need a total overhaul too. A change from mono to fluorocarbon is on the cards for a start. I lost some big fish due to line breakages so I want to go up in breaking strength but not lose out on diameter. I’ll keep using mono on my heavier rigs as I think it is harder wearing but the lighter tippets will be changed up in strength. For example, my current 2.5 pound mono rigs could be upgraded to 4 pound fluorocarbon.
It’s a cool morning outside, a light mist shrouds the trees in the garden. You can feel the change in the seasons. I would dearly love to be out fishing today, making the best of my last few hours of freedom before work rudely interrupts. Instead I am filling sturdy cardboard boxes with years of accumulated crockery, tools and assorted other chaff. Who knows how long the house move will take? There are a couple of rooms to be decorated before this house goes on the market for a start. It once took me 18 months to sell a house in Scotland and the thought of a prolonged period of financial uncertainty is unsettling. Hopefully it will be quicker than that and some level of normality can return fairly rapidly. Until then I will probably be a bit quiet on this blog but, like MaCarthur, I shall return!